FARGO-Overtime was the prime factor in deciding how the West was won.
But top-seeded Minnesota Duluth, which was no stranger to overtime or close games this season, came out on top in another one and became the first team to punch their ticket to Chicago.
After a total of 45 minutes and 53 seconds of overtime clock ticked off in the West Regional, the Bulldogs had themselves a spot in the Frozen Four after a 3-2 victory over the second-seeded Boston University Terriers on Saturday night at Scheels Arena. It was the first time since the NCAA Tournament expanded to its current format in 2003 that all three games in a regional were decided in overtime.
“I’m pretty excited right now. These guys know I don’t get too excited,” Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin said. “To have the opportunity to get to Chicago, to get to the Frozen Four and keep playing is pretty exciting for all of us.”
Adam Johnson had the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs 1:57 into overtime, picking up a rebound of his blocked shot and launching it past Terriers goaltender Jake Oettinger to send the crowd of 5,277 into a frenzy.
“I was fortunate enough to get it back on the wall and I saw an opening,” Johnson said. “I found the corner and it was a good feeling.”
UMD improved to 5-0-7 in overtime games this season and their latest triumph gave them their fifth Frozen Four appearance in program history. They became the first team to win a pair of regional overtime games since the Minnesota Golden Gophers did it in 2005.
“When you’re in a lot of those [overtime] situations, you learn from those, good and bad,” Sandelin said. “They just believe they can win. That was the case again tonight where they just found a way to win.”
West Regional MVP and All-Tournament goaltender Hunter Miska shined in net once again, making 22 saves.
“He’s a big reason we are where we are,” Sandelin said.
Clayton Keller and Patrick Harper had goals for Boston University, which fell just short of its second Frozen Four in three years despite a valiant effort against a Duluth team it beat in the 2015 Northeast Regional Final.
“It was another great hockey game in this regional,” Terriers head coach David Quinn said. “Incredibly disappointed for us.”
The Terriers were the better team early, taking advantage of a UMD team that was still perhaps a bit fatigued from Friday night’s emotional overtime battle with Ohio State. BU drew first blood on a Clayton Keller backhand shot that rang in off the post. Keller left the Bulldogs defense in his dust as he scored BU’s first game-opening goal in 11 games.
“[We] got out of the gate quick,” Quinn said.
Over the final seven minutes, Minnesota-Duluth woke up on offense, forechecking better and keeping play in the Terriers zone. Alex Iafallo finally evened the game with 17.3 seconds left in the first, charging around the BU net and scoring a beautiful wraparound goal.
Neither team played particularly well in the second period, as the teams combined for just 24 shots on goal through 40 minutes.
Duluth grabbed the lead with just over eight minutes left when a relentless Joey Anderson carried the puck in, fired at BU goaltender Jake Oettinger and put away his own rebound to get the Bulldogs on the verge of their first Frozen Four in six years.
Not so fast.
The Terriers were absolutely relentless offensively following Anderson’s goal, forechecking hard and forcing Miska to make save after save. The pressure finally paid off with 3:14 remaining when Patrick Harper launched a laser from the slot, beating Miska top-shelf over his left shoulder to knot the game at 2 and make it a winner-take-all once again in the West Regional.
“I don’t think a lot changes,” Anderson said when asked about how players handle consecutive overtime games. “Guys just have to do what they do to get ready to play.”
The deciding goal in overtime was set up by a tripping call on BU forward Bobo Carpenter at 1:39. Anderson won the game 18 seconds later and his teammates mobbed him along the right wing wall in celebration.
Minnesota-Duluth, the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, will play the Air Force/Harvard winner at the Frozen Four.
For Terriers defenseman Doyle Somerby and his fellow seniors, it was tough falling just short of another Frozen Four to end their collegiate careers.
“We’ve come a long way my four years,” Somerby said. “To make the tournament three times in a row is pretty special and obviously I wish it ended better and you always want to write the right end of the script.”
BU goal at 7:59: Keller 21. Assist: Ryan Cloonan 6.
UMD goal at 19:42: Iafallo 19. Assists: Anderson 23 and Willie Raskob 12.
UMD goal at 11:38: Anderson 11. Assists: Riley Tufte 7 and Nick Wolff 10.
BU goal at 16:47: Harper 13. Assists: Chad Krys 6 and Dante Fabbro 12.
UMD goal at 1:57: Johnson 18. Assists: Neal Pionk 26 and Iafallo 30.
Shots on goal: BU 24, UMD 23.
Power plays: BU 0-2, UMD 1-3.
Forwards: Joey Anderson (UMD), Alex Iafallo (UMD), Clayton Keller (BU).
Defense: Willie Raskob (UMD), Charlie McAvoy (BU).
Goaltender: Hunter Miska (UMD).
MVP: Hunter Miska.